An allergy and asthma specialist says: The main cause of asthma is inflammation of the airways, so anything that reduces inflammation may help. Vitamin D can increase antiinflammatory molecules in the body; it may also reduce the risk of getting viral infections like colds, which are the most common triggers of asthma. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with hyper-reactive airways (when air passages narrow suddenly), lower lung function and poor asthma control.
Treatment: Your doctor can measure your vitamin D levels with a blood test to find out if you’re deficient (most people are). Make sure to get the recommended daily minimum 600 IUs (15 micrograms) of vitamin D from foods like oily fish, fortified dairy products, cereals and supplements. — Manbir S. Sandhu, M.D., an allergy, asthma and immunology specialist in Vancouver, Canada
An acupuncturist and Ayurvedic practitioner says: Acupuncture can help open the lungs, ease breathing, decrease phlegm and mucus and calm the mind (many asthmatics experience anxiety). A newer approach I use in my practice is salt therapy, which originated in Russia and Eastern Europe. Salt is anti-bacterial, and it dissolves or liquefies mucus. In a salt room, the walls and floors are covered with salt and a special device grinds it into very fine particles that you inhale.
Treatment: Let your doctor know if you decide to see an acupuncturist, and don’t go off your medications without medical supervision. If salt therapy isn’t an option, you can use a saline solution, either with a neti pot or saline washes, to decrease mucus and fight infections. — Will Foster, licensed acupuncturist and certified Ayurvedic practitioner in Knoxville, Tenn.
A naturopath says: Eating dairy products is often a trigger for respiratory ailments, as it produces a lot of mucus in the body, which causes congestion. Gluten is also suspected to be problematic for many, although experts don’t fully understand why.
Treatment: First cut dairy and then gluten out of your diet. After six weeks (the optimal amount of time to test for sensitivity), reintroduce the foods and keep detailed notes about how you feel. The herb hawthorn berry has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties and blocks the formation of histamine, opening the airways immediately. Keep a 1-ounce tincture on hand; if you feel symptoms, take a full dropper and wait a minute. Try this three to five times, and if it hasn’t helped, use your asthma medications. — Deborah Frances, N.D., an adjunct professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore.